Tiger Woods and Johnny Morris, owner/developer of Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Mo., have a lot in common. Each man is fueled by an unwavering desire to leave a lasting impact on the game of golf and the world at large.
And each is charging head-on to that goal at Payne’s Valley Golf Course. The course is set to open in 2020 as the world’s first Woods-designed public track. Named in honor of the late Payne Stewart, a native of nearby Springfield, Mo., Payne’s Valley will be the fifth course at Big Cedar Lodge, joining Ozarks National, Top of the Rock, Buffalo Ridge and Mountain Top.
“Johnny is just so passionate about the Ozarks and the community and its people,’’ said Beau Welling, lead designer for Woods’ TGR Design group. “And he obviously loves nature, so he wants people to experience nature.
“John truly is one of the great choreographers of experience. It’s been a great pleasure working with him.’’
And what does Woods want?
“When Tiger first got involved in course design, he was very clear that he didn’t want to get involved in a huge number of projects,’’ Welling said. “Tiger’s passion aligns with John’s passion to do something impactful.
“The thing we believe in is, we want people to have fun. So we work really hard to create a golf experience for people of all levels of play, we want people to have fun. So we work really hard (for people) to go out there and have fun, be social and have a human connection while playing the great game of golf.’’
What that means for Payne’s Valley, Welling said, is wide fairways and a lot of shot-making options, including on the ground.
“Tiger is a big believer in shot-making and presenting options around course,’’ Welling said. “A lot of the fairways we shaped are done to get the ball to the green on the ground.’’
Woods’ name is enough to attract golfers from the around the world, but the course will showcase the natural beauty of Southwest Missouri and the Ozarks. For example, Payne’s Valley’s 19th hole, “The Rock,” traverses through a stunning natural cave system before returning to the clubhouse.
The 200 feet of exposed limestone, Welling said, “is truly a spectacular piece of geology. And we have this incredible opportunity to play golf back into it.’’
Feature Photo: Payne’s Valley (Big Cedar Lodge)